Thursday, July 09, 2015

What Has to Happen Before Electric Cars Replace Standard Cars?

[Clean Air Watch periodically accepts guest posts that we find interesting.  Today's guest is Jaclyn Lambert]

The advances in battery and hybrid vehicle technology over the past two decades have been so amazing that it causes one to wonder if there could be a world where traditional cars with gasoline engines no longer exist. After all, cars powered entirely by electricity are no longer a far-fetched idea, with high performance supercars coming out now that are capable of reaching incredible speeds.

There are, however, still significant barriers that stand in the way of electric cars becoming the new standard for everyday transportation. Let’s take a look at the biggest ones.

Range and Charging
Image credit: Richard Masoner

The first and most obvious limitation of electric cars becoming widespread and replacing cars with traditional gasoline or diesel engines is the fact that they require frequent charging to drive long distances. As the technology exists now, electric cars need to be charged roughly every 50-200 miles, and there are few charging stations to accommodate that requirement.

If electric cars are to make up a sizable portion of the auto market in the next 10 years, there will have to be significant improvement upon the existing technology, along with the addition of more charging stations at accessible places like fuelling stations.

How Clean is Electricity?
Image credit: Guy Gorek

The major impetus behind the development of electric car technology is to reduce the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. The problem is this: obviously, electric cars are cleaner than traditional gasoline-fueled cars, but the electricity that is required to power those cars isn’t necessarily without its faults.

Currently, the power grid is still very dependent on coal -- even though coal use is dropping in the U.S. 
-- and it's a fossil fuel which is not any cleaner than petroleum (probably dirtier), and there’s no significant, safe and clear alternative on the horizon. Natural gas appears to be a viable source of supplementary energy, but with fluctuating prices and other limitations, it’s a long way from being able to replace coal completely.

So, the incentive to develop electric cars to eliminate the use of fossil fuels is weakened if the source of the electricity required to power those cars isn’t cleaner than traditional petroleum.

Public Perception
The third and final obstacle to electric cars becoming ubiquitous in the marketplace is public perception. At the end of the day, there are a higher percentage of people who just aren’t comfortable with the idea of driving a car that runs entirely on electricity. There’s something about giving up the fuel source that’s kept cars running for so long that makes drivers uneasy.

Despite the limitations presented by the advancement of technology and the cleanliness of electric power generation, it could be the perception of electric car technology that hinders it from wide adoption the most.

Author Bio
Jaclyn Lambert works with HR Owen, the #1 luxury car dealer in the UK.

1 comment:

Frank O'Donnell, Clean Air Watch said...

Geoff Simon @GeoffSimonSays commented: Hmm, no mention of the fact batteries don't work well in cold climates, and they must use energy for heaters too. It's a well-known fact that batteries don't perform well in bitter cold weather.